Loyola has a NCAA Division I women’s volleyball team. Whether students go to the games or not, they know the team exists. But Loyola has another women’s competitive volleyball team that some students may not have heard of: women’s club volleyball.
The team is halfway through its fall season and is scheduled to travel to The Ohio State University this weekend for its most competitive tournament of the season. The following weekend, on Nov. 15, the team will travel to Marquette University for the final tournament of the semester.
“Ohio State is going to be a bigger tournament with a lot of bigger schools,” said Allison Merkle, the president of women’s club volleyball. “We expect to do big things at the Marquette tournament. We usually shine at Marquette. We did really well last year.”
Usually the ladies stick to tournaments close to Chicago, and travel to one far tournament each year. This semester, that tournament is Ohio State.
The women’s club volleyball team plays four tournaments in both the fall and spring semesters, a total of eight tournaments a year.
“We will play at Marquette, but we’ll also travel to one farther tournament,” Merkle said. “A lot of girls on the team are from Ohio, so we’ll stay at their houses and our parents and friends can come watch.”
Tryouts are held before each semester begins, and the members on the team can change throughout the course of the year. Often the roster remains mostly intact between fall and spring, though, because fewer new players try out for the spring semester. Twenty-two girls make up the entire women’s club volleyball team, which is broken up into two groups — the gold team, equivalent to the “A” team, and the maroon team (“B” team). There are 10-11 players on each team.
This year the two teams are primarily underclassmen.
“There are four or five juniors, but mostly sophomores and a couple new freshmen,” said Merkle, a sophomore.
While the Ramblers spend a majority of their time traveling, the team hosts one tournament on its home court each year.
At the end of October, the team hosted the Rambler Rumble in Halas Recreation Center. The gold team finished the tournament in eighth place, while the maroon team placed 10th out of 12.
In their very first tournament of the season, the Ramblers played at Augustana College on Oct. 11 in Rock Island, Illinois. The gold team placed seventh and the maroon team placed ninth.
“We’re not always in the top [of the standings], but we’re in the middle and getting better each tournament,” Merkle said. “We play some very competitive teams.”
The club team is structured quite differently from the NCAA team. For example, there is no official head coach. Instead, the four officers — the president, vice president, secretary and treasurer — alternate coaching duties. They also have a club volleyball alum who attends their practices and helps run drills, but most of the coaching is handled by the players.
As one of the oldest club teams at Loyola, the team is one of the most recognized club sports both on and off campus.
The players make it a point to ingrain themselves not only into Loyola culture but also the Rogers Park community.
“We love to participate in any philanthropy organizational event,” Merkle said. “We volunteer at Sacred Heart, as well. We try to get involved in the community and student body.”
The team will play in a tournament this Saturday, Nov. 8 at Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio.